Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fountain pens

Here's a moving entry about the use of fountain pens by Peter A. Lipson, M.D. Click on the title above to go directly to the blog post and read others' comments and add your own.

Fountain pens

Category: Medical Musings
Posted on: June 17, 2008 10:31 PM, by PalMD

I love fountain pens, but I'm far to busy for the regular ritual of cleaning, filling, etc. Most of my day is spent scrawling notes or typing on a keyboard. But there is one task for which only a fountain pen will do.

I've lost a number of patients lately. Most were in hospice, all were elderly, but it's always tough. I take care of my patients until they die, including hospice care, so I often get to follow them on the journey from health to death. Sometimes, great debility and dementia is a step on that journey. I've taken to writing short notes to the spouse of the deceased, to acknowledge the death, let them know I'm available, and remind them that I knew the patient on a personal level and appreciate the loss of a person, rather than just a patient.

I just can't type a letter like that, and using some plastic throw-away pen doesn't seem appropriate. I take a nice piece of office stationary, dip my pen, and write. After signing the letter, I turn it and blot it on another sheet.

The subtle smears that are left by my mediocre penmanship create a clearly personal document, separating it from a generic communication.

There really aren't many more important tasks. I don't mind brushing off my quirky 1957 Pelican once in a while. One must always use the proper tool for the occasion. While a patient lives, a stethoscope, clean hands, and a penlight are indispensable. After they are gone, only a fountain pen will do.


  1. I think all pens are fun! But I remember in the summer of 96' I took a summer class of Caligraphy and boy oh boy was it something special! I use the method even now a days when I write letters and send them to family cross country. Learning new forms of art is always entertaining to me as well, that is why we always need the right utensil!

    -Hayden F.

  2. Anonymous1:36 PM

    What a touching thought. My Mom had the same doctor for years and they seemed to have a special friedship beyond the norm. he helped her through this other doctors had missed. When my Mom dies a few years ago I had to call his office and cancel my Mom's next appointment. In addition to a call returned in person by him I recieved a very kind hand written note from him, in pen and carrying his full name, first and last without the Doctor title. Written as a friend, not as her doctor.
    Thank you for your post!

    Tony M.